With AT&T’s Mobile Share Advantage, the telecom giant follows a new trend: Customers who switch to this new shared mobile plan (available August 21) will be spared bandwidth overage fees. Instead, the firm said, after available bandwidth is used up, its Mobile Share Advantage customers will be throttled to 128Kbps for the rest of the current billing cycle.
The Mobile Share plans pool bandwith among devices that can include smartphones, feature phones, tablets, gaming devices, wearables, laptops, hotspots, and other hardware. A monthly charge per device is paired with a charge for a tier of bandwidth.
Why this matters: AT&T joins T-Mobile and Sprint among the big four U.S. carriers in shifting to throttling instead of causing customers to rack up fees at $10 per gigabyte above plan totals. That’s good news for consumers, though it’ll be interesting to see whether they’ll tolerate throttling or break down and buy more bandwidth, sending more money to the carriers after all.
Digging into the details
The Mobile Share Advantage plans include all the same basic features as the previous Mobile Share Value plans: unlimited voice calling and texting within the United States, one-month rollover of unused data, and pooled data among lines on the same account. But it gets better: Higher-tier Value plans added fee-free voice, text, and pooled data use in Mexico, unlimited texting from the U.S. and Mexico worldwide, and unlimited calling from the U.S. to Canada and Mexico. Those offerings are part of all the new Advantage plans.
The plans have some flexibility. Additional bandwidth can be purchased for $20 per 10GB, a dramatic reduction from the $15 per 1GB on current plans of 1GB or more. The new plans also include larger usage pools at the same price tiers as AT&T’s current Mobile Share Value service. AT&T has eliminated the 300MB tier, formerly $20 a month, and reduced its $30 tier from 2GB to 1GB. All higher-bandwidth tiers are cheaper per gigabyte.
The company used to charge $25 per contract-free smartphone or feature phone per month for lower tiers of shared bandwidth and $15 per month for higher tiers. It’s simplified this to $20 per month for all phones. Business plans, which start at 25GB, pay $15 per smartphone per month. AT&T said the monthly device fee still ranges from $10 to $40 per month for other kinds of devices, including phones under contract.
AT&T said that consumer plans start at 1GB and span to 100GB and allow up to 10 lines. Business plans start at 25GB and go as high as 200GB, and can comprise as many as 25 lines.
Consumers stand to save under the new plans. A two-smartphone household that previously had a 300MB plan and paid $70 a month could move to the 1GB tier under the new pricing structure and pay the same, because of the lower per-line fee. A higher-tier family at the 15GB level and four phones would be paying $160 a month today, and would pay $170 for 16GB or $160 for 10GB in the new pricing structure. AT&T has retained its previous rollover option of just one month, while T-Mobile’s spans the previous 12 months.
The combination of rollover data, throttling, and vastly less expensive bundles of 10GB could lead customers to shift lower. The same four-phone household paying $160 today could drop to a 6GB plan for $140 and pay an extra $20 just during months when their bandwidth needs are higher.